Speech of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev in the ceremony of presentation of the award "Man of 2002" instituted by the ANS Group of companies and the Chingiz Mustafayev Foundation - January 11, 2003

Ladies and gentlemen!

I welcome you today in this ceremony. I am very satisfied to be with you here.

As President of Azerbaijan I award the people in our country. Now I am awarded in Azerbaijan for the first time. This is a remarkable event. On this occasion I would like to thank the Chingiz Mustafayev Foundation and the ANS Group of companies.

This award is very valuable for me. First, because of its name. The Chingiz Mustafayev Foundation has been functioning in Azerbaijan for many years. This foundation is named after the National Hero, who was one of the talented reporters of Azerbaijan. Chingiz Mustafayev`s short life and brave activity as a reporter in the first years of the Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan became a great example. I think that it must be an example for all the reporters of Azerbaijan.

Each of our martyrs is living in our hearts. The memory of Chingiz Mustafayev, who went to the war with the purpose to inform the people and the world community with the realities, is more valuable for us. Thus, this award is of great importance for me.

ANS is the first independent TV channel in Azerbaijan. The history of its establishment is known. It started to function in different forms in the early 1990 with the efforts of Chingiz Mustafayev`s brother Vahid Mustafayev and others. Their programme was closed and banned several times, but they didn`t give up. They pioneered the establishment of private TV channels in Azerbaijan.

Naturally, not everyone likes the private TV channels. I don`t like some programmes. But what to do? We should tolerate it. Because it is one of the ways of democracy, freedom of speech and human rights. We declared it when Azerbaijan gained its independence. As President of Azerbaijan, I declare that our way is democracy, political pluralism, respect to human rights, market economy, free economy. We can develop our legal, democratic and secular state only this way. We have done a lot in this way. But it has not been smooth every time. If we don`t hear criticism and see our mistakes, we shall commit more mistakes. I admit that there have been many mistakes and flaws so far. But the people in power may not see them or don`t pay attention to them. If the independent media, especially TV channels, don`t remind and criticize, there will be more mistakes.

For instance, I was watching ANS last night. They wanted to evacuate the people in Bayil because of landslde, but the population was resisting. The police interfered. Then I saw another topic. We have determined an area in Mingechevir for building houses for the refugees, so they leave the buildings and schools they stay in now. We have a significant sports base on rowing there. Some refugees have been placed there. The places they stay in are not relevant. The TV channels show the houses being built for the refugees. They are supposed to move into those houses. Some claim that the areas for them were determined incorrectly. I saw two topics. I thought that I should learn about those issues the next day. I didn`t postpone it and I called the Prime Minister Rasi-zade an hour later. He had watched ANS, too. He told me that the actions of the people are not unclear. It is what he said. A tragedy happened because of a landslide in Bayil. The current observations demonstrate that a new landslip may occur. The people live in a dangerous zone. A new place for them has been planned; however, they don`t want to move there. The local executive bodies had worked ineffectively; the people had built more houses illegally. All the buildings there are illegal. Mr. Rasi-zade says that the area does not have communal conditions. But the population does not want to leave it.

I saw on TV that the people want money to leave that area and move other places. Now I don`t know what is going on there. I told Mr. Rasi-zade about this. He had seen that on TV, too. He said that the TV channel should have not showed it since they do their best to solve the problem. But we should have not learned the problem, if the TV had not shown it. The Prime Minister is told that the problem is being solved. I am told by the Prime Minister the same. But after seeing that on TV, we need to learn what is happening indeed. I was resting yesterday. So was Mr. Rasi-zade. After I watched ANS, I phoned the Prime Minister and gave him an instruction. This fact demonstrates how a private TV channel helps us.

The independent media and private TV channels must develop in the democratic country and ensure our national interests. But there are some flaws in this field. Some newspapers demonstrate extremism in some issues. The ethics of journalism is being violated. Thus, in some cases fair criticism of media is not accepted. I accept it as a big process.

As I told, ANS has been developing for 13 years. It has greatly changed since its establishment. So have Space TV, Lider TV, Free Azerbaycan TV. You pioneered on this path. They follow you. I am told that there are local TV channels, which serve the provinces.

I appreciate the activity of your TV channel. I also recommend you to remove your defects. Sometimes reporters think that they are defectless. It reminds me of Meshedi Ibad, who asks himself what his flaw is. Then he concludes that his only defect is his defectlessness. You must give up thinking like Meshedi Ibad.

Perhaps I take your time. But I had to say my opinion. You appreciate my activity and declare me "Man of the Year". I see that you understand some issues are very important for Azerbaijan. They are important indeed.

For example, the issue on the status of the Caspian Sea. According to the oil strategy of Azerbaijan, in 1994 we signed a contract, which was later became known as the "Contract of the Century". It was a big sensation in the world. The discussions on this issue started. However, no one had recalled the resources of the Caspian Sea before. Neither had the pre-Caspian countries.

The contract we signed says that the oil produced here will be transported via Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline in future. Without it the contract has no future. It is very important to transport the resources. We attracted the big oil companies of the world and set the route of transportation. It created some disagreement.

We signed an important document with Russia. However, after the "Contract of the Century" in 1994 Russia presented Azerbaijan and BP a letter of protest, claiming that we signed an illegal document before the solution of the legal status of the Caspian Sea.

Six month later when I met the then Foreign Minister of the United Kingdom in Istanbul, he asked me how we should work the protest of Russia. I told him not to worry and that we should work. After that meeting long negotiations were held. After the election of Vladimir Putin President of Russia he visited Azerbaijan for the first time in 2001, we could intensify the negotiations. Finally, we signed documents with Russia and Kazakhstan. Now all three countries share the same position.

I hope that we shall continue these negotiations also with Iran and Turkmenistan. The pre-Caspian countries need to meet sometimes. The delegation headed by Safari, representative of the Foreign Minister of Iran will visit Azerbaijan on the 13th of this month. We shall have negotiations here. It is also planned to organize a meeting of the experts of the pre-Caspian countries in Azerbaijan. I think that we shall solve this problem. The signature of the document mentioned by you is a historical event.

I don`t want to enumarate the others, which are also very important. For example, the issue of the Gabala Radiolocation Station. Some didn`t agree with its current status. But now we are paid a rent of USD 7 million, as well as water and electricity expenses. The activity in the Gabala RLS is not harmful for us, for our nature and environment. Vice versa, from the points of view of on security point of view it is very important not only for Russia, but for the Western countries as well.

The implementation of construction of Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline was also a complicated issue. We are realzing it. In 1998 Turkey, Kazakhstan, Georgia and Azerbaijan signed the first agreement on it in Ankara. We involved even Uzbekistan. The United States played an active role in this process. The then Minister of Energy of the United States participated at the meeting and signed the document.

During the OSCE Summit of in Istanbul in 1999, Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan signed the contract, later the declaration. Kazakhstan also joined it. The former president of the United States Bill Clinton signed them, too. Many years have passed since. We made efforts in order to implement the project into life. Last September we put the foundation of the pipeline. The construction will start in March and end in 2005. Then oil will be transported to the Ceyhan port with this pipeline. It is a historical event both from economic and political point of view. Thank you very much for appreciating our work.

I don`t want to take your time speaking about other issues. You understand the importance of these issues. You are objective. If I had instituted an award, I would have presented it to you for your objectivity.

Vahid, I am very glad to see your family here. I am greeting Chingiz Mustafayev`s parents, brother, uncle Arif Mustafayev, who used to work as my assisstant in the Central Committee for 13 years. I am happy that your family has made big contributionsto the development of mass media. Thank you very much.